Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Eight: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part Two
Why the Perfections are Mental
The following reading is taken from the Entry Point for Children of the Victorious Buddhas (rGyal-sras ‘jug-ngogs), a commentary by Gyaltsab Je Darma Rinchen (1364-1432) on the book called Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Byang-chubsems-dpa’i spyod-pa la ‘jug-pa) by Master Shantideva (c. 700 AD).
The third section, on why it is right to make great efforts to destroy the mental afflictions, has two parts: making efforts in applying the antidotes to the mental afflictions, and making efforts never to become controlled by the mental afflictions.
I should therefore never turn back
Even for a single moment from the task
I should get attached to them,
And so are not counted among them.
Here is the first of the two. The mental afflictions are, therefore, things which deserve to be eliminated. As such, I should never turn back, either in my thoughts or my actions, from the task of destroying them, even for a single moment.
I should get attached to these antidotes for the mental afflictions; that is, I should make use of the antidotes. And I should learn to hate the mental afflictions, and make war on them, and smash them.
Someone may ask the following question: “You seem to be describing some kind of bias in the attitude we should have towards the antidotes that eliminate our mental afflictions, and you have spoken about hating the thing that the antidote is supposed to eliminate. Aren’t these types of thoughts themselves just another kind of mental affliction—that is, the very thing which we are trying to eliminate?” These kinds of attitudes—of being attached to the antidotes for mental affliction, and of hating the mental afflictions we are trying to eliminate—are themselves only apparent mental afflictions. Because they are included into the antidote side—that is, because they are part of what acts to destroy the mental afflictions—they are not counted among the objects which we seek to eliminate from our minds. There are commentaries which do state that these are themselves something to be destroyed later, but what they mean by saying this is that, once one has finished off all the objects to be eliminated, one need no longer make war.
You can tie me to a stake and burn me, kill me,
Or you can cut off my head—that would be fine.
Here is the second. Someone may ask another question: “Wouldn’t it be easier just to cooperate with the mental afflictions, rather than possibly having to undergo infinite thousands of sufferings during the task of eliminating them?” You can tie me to a stake and burn me, kill me. Or you can cut off my head—that would be fine. The only thing that would happen is that I would lose the body which I possess in this life. But I will never in any shape or form submit to—that is, I will never allow myself to come under the control of—my great enemy, the mental afflictions: those things which create the great sufferings of the hells and such, those things which block me from reaching the goals I hope for.
The third section from before describes how we should take joy in the fact that, if we make efforts, the mental afflictions can be removed. Here there are three parts: describing how, if we are able to eradicate the mental afflictions completely from our minds, they have nowhere else to go; how, because the mental afflictions spring from a cause which is a misperception, they really can be eliminated if we make great efforts; and how, if they are eradicated completely, there could be nowhere else for them to go at all—and should thus be eliminated.
If you push a normal enemy out of your country,
They can still go on to other lands,
Make their home there, and get reinforcements;
And then they can return.
As enemies though is not the same.
Here is the first of the three. “Still,” one may begin, “it would be better to simply coexist with the mental afflictions, because if they are like normal enemies in the everyday world, they can—if you remove them from the mind one time—go back and regroup, then return to hurt you again.” But they are not the same as normal enemies. If you push a normal enemy, a worldly enemy, out of your country one time, they can still go on to other lands, stay there, make their home there, and then regroup—get reinforcements. Then they can return to seek revenge upon you. The way in which the mental afflictions behave as enemies though is not the same. Once you eradicate them completely from your mind, there is nowhere else for them to go, and it is completely impossible for them to regroup and return.
Once I have eliminated them,
Cleared them from my mind
They have nowhere else to go—
No place they can make their home,
No way to return and harm me.
It all comes down to the fact
That my mind is so very weak:
I do not have the energy.
Here is the second point. The mental afflictions are such that, once I have managed to eradicate them from my mind a single time, they have nowhere to stay. I should therefore make efforts in using the eye of wisdom—the perception of emptiness—to eliminate the seed of the mental afflictions: for everything related to mental affliction springs from a root which is a misperception. Once I have eliminated these seeds, once I have cleared the mental afflictions away from my mind in this way, they have nowhere else at all to go, no place they can make their home, no place to regroup, no way to return to do me harm—it would be a complete impossibility.
Even though this is the case, the mental afflictions do continue to hurt me, and it all comes down to the fact that my mind is so very weak: I do not even have the energy to throw the mental afflictions out even the single time that would be needed.
Among the group of the powers,
Nor somewhere throughout, nor somewhere other.
There is nowhere at all that they can stay
To do harm to every living being.
They are like an illusion, and so
And rely on the practice of making great efforts,
Working to develop wisdom.
Why should I subject myself pointlessly
Here is the third point. Someone else might come and assert the following: “We could never be able to eliminate mental afflictions even once, because they grow with the mind itself, and exist as part of the very nature of things.” It’s not true that the mental afflictions exist by nature among the objects which we perceive: visual objects and the rest. If this were the case, then mental afflictions would start to grow even in enemy destroyers, as they looked upon visual objects and such.
Neither do the mental afflictions exist in this way among the group of the physical powers, such as the eye. This is because a person who is directing his or her thoughts towards the meaning of the actual reality of things may still possess the power of the eye, and yet not have any mental affliction.
Nor do the mental afflictions exist somewhere throughout these two possibilities, nor somewhere other than the two: once you have eradicated them from their very root, there is nowhere at all that they can stay: that they can by some kind of nature go and remain, to return then to do harm to every living being.
One might have the following thought: “These mental afflictions are empty of any natural kind of existence, but at the same time they do appear to have natural existence, and so they are like an illusion. As long as this is the case—because they do exist through some nature of their own—I could never eliminate them from their root.” It is good though if I can eliminate this fear from my heart, and rely on the practice of making great efforts to remove my mental afflictions, through working to develop the wisdom which perceives emptiness. Given that I therefore have at the present moment the ability to remove these afflictions, it is not good on the other hand that I subject myself pointlessly to the sufferings of the lower realms, to hells and the rest. Why should I put myself through these pains? Some commentators have also explained the previous lines as referring to the fact that, once we remove the seeds for the mental afflictions, they can no longer stay in these various places.
In this way we must engage in different
Kinds of contemplations and make great efforts
As they have been described.
If you—a patient who absolutely had
To be treated with specific kinds of medicine—
Refused to listen to your physician’s advice
How could you ever be cured?
Here is the third overall section, which is the summary of the chapter. In this way—that is, as explained above—we must engage in contemplations of many kinds, and make great efforts in the practice of carefulness, just as the Teacher has taught us to do, for the purpose of accomplishing the ends of both the wish for enlightenment, and the various rules for bodhisattvas, as they have been described earlier. Suppose you were sick, but refused to listen to the advice of your physician. How then could you ever be cured, if you were a patient who absolutely had to be treated with specific kinds of medicine? I would never be cured. Therefore we must exert ourselves in the task of eliminating our mental afflictions, just as that Great Physician, the Teacher, has taught us to do.
Freeing yourself of the dirt
And keeping your good deeds increasing,
And never becoming less,
All depends without a doubt
As such the wise should ever after
This is just a brief verse, to summarize the chapter.
Here finally we cover the name of the chapter. This then has been the explanation of the fourth chapter, the presentation on carefulness, from the “Entry Point for the Sons and Daughters of the Victorious Buddhas,” a commentary upon the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.
The second section, a demonstration that the fine qualities depend on the mind, has six different parts, consisting of an explanation of how giving, an ethical way of life, not getting angry, joyful effort, meditation, and finally wisdom each depend on the mind.
We will present the first of these in two steps of its own: a demonstration of the fact that the culmination of the perfection of giving does not depend on removing the poverty of each and every living being; and an explanation of how one can reach the final end of a generous state of mind through continual practice.
Suppose something were the perfection
Of giving when it removed
If there were living beings though
Who suffered still from hunger,
How then could the Protectors of
Here is the first. Suppose someone were to assert the following: “We can posit something as the perfection of giving when the culmination of this perfection of giving results in removing the poverty of each and every living being.” If though there were living beings who still suffered from hunger, and there are, how then could the Protectors of the past, the Buddhas, ever have reached the culmination of the perfection of giving? It would be illogical.
It was spoken that the perfection
Of giving is the thought
To give all that one has,
Along with the results,
To every living being.
This then is the reason why
It’s the state of mind alone.
Here is the second point, which is a kind of summary: “Therefore it was spoken that the culmination of the perfection of giving occurs when one has perfectly accustomed oneself to the kind of thought where one wishes to give all that one has—one’s body, one’s possessions, and the total sum of one’s good deeds, along with the power of the virtue that results from giving these things away—to every living being. This then is the reason why, it is because of this, that giving is only something that depends upon the state of mind.”
The second part, on the ethical way of life, has two sections of its own: a demonstration that it would be incorrect to say that the culmination of the perfection of an ethical life depends on the final end of any living being who is being killed; and that the culmination of the perfection comes from constant practice of the attitude of wanting to give up harm to others.
How could you ever chase fish and such
To a place where no one could kill them? Here is the first point. It must be incorrect to say that the culmination of the perfection of an ethical life should depend on trying to reach the end of the last living being who is being killed. Because how could you ever chase every wild beast, and every fish, and every other such being to some place where no one could kill any of them? You never could. It is explained that the perfection Of an ethical way of life consists of
One wishes to abandon.
Here is the second. Therefore, for this reason, it is explained in sutra that the culmination of the perfection of an ethical way of life consists of attaining the culmination of the constant practice of a way of thinking wherein one wishes to abandon any idea of harming someone else, or of stealing anything. The sutra at this point says, “What is the perfection of an ethical way of life? It is the way of thinking in which one abandons anything that is harmful to others.”
It would be a complete impossibility
Ever to destroy altogether those
To destroying each and every enemy.
The third part, on the perfection of patience, has three sections: the point, a metaphor, and the connection between the point and the metaphor. Here is the first. You have reached the culmination of patience with the destruction of a single object—the thought of anger, which is comparable to destroying each and every one of your external enemies. You would have to admit that the culmination of this perfection is not something that depends on finishing off every possible object which could make you angry though, because it would be a complete, or entire, impossibility ever to accomplish the destruction of every single irritating person, for these are as limitless in extent as space itself. Therefore patience is also something that depends upon the mind.
How could you ever find enough leather
To cover the entire surface of Earth?
Covering simply the soles of your feet
Is comparable to the entire surface.
Here is the second point. Suppose you decided to cover the entire surface of Earth with leather, in order to prevent the thorns and so on there from hurting your feet. How could you ever find enough leather to do so? Even in this case you would simply wrap your own feet in enough leather to cover the area of the soles of your feet, in order to keep the thorns and such from hurting you. This would be comparable then to covering the entire surface of the Earth with leather.
Just the same it would be an impossibility
For me to stop every single outer object;
Why should I stop all the others?
Here is the third part. My present case is the same as this metaphor. It would be an impossibility for me to stop every single outer object that might bring me any kind of pain. Rather I should stop this tendency of my own mind to focus on these same objects and then feel anger. It is through the constant practice of this action that I could eventually bring patience to its culmination. Why though should I try to stop all the other objects, everything that could ever make me angry? I never could, and there is no need even to try.
A single instance of clear mind
Can as a result lead you
To the Pure One or the like.
Along these same lines the related actions
A result if one’s efforts are feeble.
Here is the fourth point. Joyful effort as well is something that depends upon the mind, something that depends on your constant practice of it to bring it to its final conclusion. Consider the fact that a single small instance of clear and focused concentrationn which with a joyful state of mind you are practicing meditation upon something like the first concentration level, can as a result lead you even so far as a birth in the place of the Pure One (Brahma), or the like. Along these same lines, an instance of the mind, and the related actions of body and speech, which are not related to a powerful state of mind are unable to lead to a desired result, such as the development of the the state of mind of the first concentration level, if one’s efforts are feeble—meaning where one has little joy in the task. Therefore it all depends on a powerful state of mind.
Suppose you attempt every kind of practice
Where you repeat, or do other asceticisms,
Over a long period of time.
If you allow your mind to be distracted
The true nature is meaningless.
Here is the fifth point. The culmination of the perfection of meditation as well is something that depends on the mind—a mind which is free of dullness and agitation, and which is lucid; a mind which is under the constant influence of thoughts of sadness over this life. Suppose now that you attempt every kind of practice where you repeat a great number of secret mantras, or asceticisms, such as fasting or the like, over a long period of time. If you allow your mind to be distracted to other objects as you do these practices, then you will be unable to understand the true nature of things.
As the Buddha himself has stated in scripture, “Oh monks! The practices of asceticism or of recitation, or any of the like, are fruitless when the mind is distracted to the objects of desire.” What Lord Buddha is saying is that practices done this way are meaningless, in the sense that they can never lead to the desired result.
Suppose any particular person fails
To understand this secret of the mind;
But will wander nonetheless, just as they
Always have, without reaching their goal.
Here is the sixth point. Wisdom is also something that depends upon the mind. Suppose any particular person fails to understand this secret of the mind, ultimate reality, because they are no proper vessel for being taught the highest import of all, the principal instruction of this teaching. It may be the case that they hope to reach matchless bliss, and to smash all the sufferings of the cycle of life. They will nonetheless be left without reaching the goal they wish for; they will be left wandering here and there, wherever, just as they always have been. Therefore the perfection of wisdom depends on the mind.
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading One: Author, Structure, and History of the Text
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Two: The Benefits of the Wish for Enlightenment
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Three: How to Make Offerings
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Four: The Four Forces of Purification, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Five: The Four Forces of Purification, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Six: Taking Joy
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Seven: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part One
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Eight: How to Fight the Mental Afflictions, Part Two
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Nine: Awareness
- Manual of Madhyamika - Reading Ten: The Perfections of Giving and Ethical Living